Moths of the Amazon
subfamily - ARCTIINAE
Manu cloudforest, 1700m, Peru ©
There are about 6000 known species of Arctiinae in the neotropical
region. Most are noxious to birds and have aposematic or diematic
The genus Utetheisa
contains 37 known species, with representatives in the Holarctic,
Neotropical, Afrotropical, Oriental and Australian regions. The most
widespread species is pulchella which
occurs in Australia and across much of Asia, Africa and Europe.
There are 3 species found in the neotropics i.e.
galapagensis both of which are endemic to the Galapagos
islands, and ornatrix which is found in
Florida, Texas and south to Bolivia and Argentina.
This species is found in a wide range of habitats at elevations
between sea level and about 2500m.
The caterpillars feed on Crotalaria,
from which they sequester pyrrolizidine alkaloids, a group of toxins
that, amongst other purposes, make them unpalatable to birds. These
PAs are stored within the bodies of the caterpillar, pupa and
resulting adult moth, all of which inherit the toxicity and are thus
protected from predators. They are also passed to the eggs,
providing them with protection against a variety of predators such
as ants, and from egg parasitoids.
common species flies mainly at night, but is often found at rest on
flowers or dead seed heads in daytime.